Page last updated at 20:31 GMT, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill

Report stage of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill has continued for a third day in the Commons.

The debate on 2 November was opened by Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly who presented a series of government amendments relating to legal aid.

The government wants to means-test suspects when they are arrested to see whether they qualify for free representation as they seek to cut the legal aid budget.

But Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd said stopping the automatic offer of legal aid to suspects when they have been arrested could lead to miscarriages of justice. Those held by the police should have access to a lawyer as a "bare minimum", he argued.

Liberal Democrat MP David Ward said reducing the availability of legal aid was a dangerous move and Labour's Karl Turner argued that it was a "fundamental right in a democratic society" that everybody should be entitled to independent legal advice while they are at a police station.

Shadow justice minister Jenny Chapman said MPs from all parties opposed the government's plans, contained in clause 12 of the bill.

She argued it was essential for people in custody to have access to free, independent legal advice.

Mr Djanogly acknowledged there were "deeply held concerns" on the principle and practicality of means-testing suspects in police custody.

He said the government would "carefully review" its approach to these issues as the bill goes through the House of Lords.

At the end of the debate two Labour amendments were defeated, the first by 315 to 223, majority 92, and the second by 305 to 222, a majority of 83.

Watch the third reading of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.


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